Rounding Third: year one
I need to start this off by saying (writing) that when Gavin Craig approached me (instant messenged me) about this idea — starting a web-zine stocked with writers drawn from our group of quirky, nerdish pals and their quirky, nerdish pals — my biggest worry was making sure I was producing content as interesting, and varied, as other writers. As a writer, I think it’s important to carve out your own niche — to stake your claim to the thing you’re going to do better than anyone else. Now, I might not be able to out-stat the Moneyball-obsessed fan. I confess to not being able to identify pitches and suffer complete lapses of common-sense when it comes to the strategic aspects of the game at times. But I think that points to what I try to do better than any other baseball writer: to nail down the guts of the game, the instinct you (as a player) have to throw it to second when it doesn’t make sense.
My first column, “Miggy and the minors,” tried to get at this a little, I think. I wrote about the epic awesomeness of Miguel Cabrera — who I still believe should have been the AL MVP last year — at a time when everything around him was going south. Once again, the Tigers were tanking after the All-Star break — but Miggy, like the beast I compared him to from Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming,” dragged the rag-tag team along with him to at least keep the chances of a pennant run alive a little longer.
Looking back, that seems to have paid off for the Tigers now — and for my conception of Miggy as the epic hero. If Miggy had gone Juan Gone on his teammates and eased up (and, hey, who would blame him, really, for letting off the gas when he was the only one revving the team’s engine?) I don’t think this year’s team would show the grit to do what they’ve done: sweep the Indians; come back from behind to take down the Royals; go deep into the bullpen to muscle out a win.
That’s what makes Miggy a hero — he inspires greatness in the rest of his team.
A guy like Alex Avila is a great example. He’s got talent, work ethic, pedigree. Does he become an All-Star catcher who looks like he’s been in the league for ten years without learning a bit of that poise and determination from Cabrera? Not sure, but I like to think Miggy rubbed off on him. Same for Brennan Boesch, who’s clearly absorbed some of Cabrera’s plate approach this year — helped, no doubt, by his fluent Spanish.
Of course, at times he is a tragic hero (see: “In which Miguel Cabrera breaks my motherfucking heart”). But he’s human. And sweet sassy molassy, I just love him.
But beyond how awesome I was in the beginning (snark), what has really been badass about The Idler is how much my own writing, and even the way I am thinking about the things I write about, has been influenced and augmented by the other Idler columnists.
If there’s a column I wished I had written, and one I think of often when I write my own stuff, it’s Ana Holguin’s invocation of another hero and the place he held in her younger years. She just nailed so much so perfectly: nostalgia, heroes (that in childhood seem so much more tangible), mental illness, family, longing.
Having a bunch of smart bastards around has challenged me, too, to think about my beloved baseball in different ways. Kate Sloan’s piece on the homoerotic overtones of The Dark Knight Returns not only inspired me to read the graphic novel (which was AWESOME) but to think harder about the role of sex, sexuality and gender in baseball. Without Kate’s work, I don’t think I’d have written “Pandering with p-words.”
I could go on forever about The Idler. I’m honored to be a part of it, and I can’t wait to get back to writing. (I’ve been on an unscheduled hiatus — who knew switching jobs would be so time-consuming?)
A few things I’m working on:
- I picked up a copy of Rickey Henderson’s Off Base yesterday (FOR 25 CENTS!), so I’ll be rocking some paleo-blogging on that bad boy.
- Moneyball hits theatres this month, and I’m planning a man-date with some of my softball buddies. Expect a review, and answer to the burning question, Will Brad Pitt be believable as a man who is not incredibly attractive?
- There’s some stuff to catch up on, like a review of my progress as a third baseman and my goals for the winter. (Yep, I’m going to go back to the coach to get some more bruises.)
- And it’s pennant time, and then playoff time.
We’ve got a lot to look forward to. Thanks for staying with us this far.
Angela Vasquez-Giroux writes about baseball, poetry, and other things for The Idler. Find her on Twitter at @A_V_G_W